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Schools told to end 'snobbery' over vocational qualifications

Schools will be ordered to encourage pupils to apply for apprenticeships and vocational qualifications such as engineering courses

Rui Vieira/PA Wire A setter operator at work at a manufacturing company
Schools have been urged to embrace vocational qualifications

Midland employers have welcomed plans to order schools to encourage pupils to apply for apprenticeships and vocational qualifications such as engineering courses.

New laws will stop schools telling pupils that only academic qualifications such as A-levels and university degrees are worth applying for, the Government has announced.

The aim is to tackle “outdated snobbery” towards apprenticeships, according to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “This is an important step in encouraging more students to consider apprenticeships which are vital for addressing the skills issues which face the UK at the present time.”

It follows concern that careers advisers in schools do a poor job of telling pupils about the highly-skilled and well-paid jobs available in engineering and manufacturing industries.

Instead, the most capable pupils are encouraged to aim for university degrees, critics say.

But it means many Midland manufacturers struggle to recruit staff even though they offer above-average salaries.

A new law will mean apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visit schools to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships or other similar schemes.

Mrs Morgan said: “I’m determined to tackle the minority of schools that perpetuate an outdated snobbery towards apprenticeships by requiring those schools to give young people the chance to hear about the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships and technical education offer.”

The Government says some schools give pupils the impression that technical and professional education and apprenticeships are second best to academic study at A level and university.

For example, a school with a sixth form may fail to invite staff from local further education colleges to speak to young people about the range of academic subjects they offer or the apprenticeships available.

The new legislation will require schools to collaborate with colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including Higher and Degree Apprenticeships .

Mr Faulkner said: “Birmingham has already seen the number of Apprenticeship starts jump from 2,550 in 2005/06 to 10,780 in 2014/15. A number of the best schools and Further Education colleges are already communicating information on apprenticeships effectively.

“We hope that this law will level the playing field and ensure all interested students have access to the opportunities on offer.

“To support this we would encourage businesses, schools, FE colleges and training providers to work together in partnership to deliver the quality careers advice and support our young people need and deserve.”

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